Berlin EDM Sensation Steffi Talks Her Klakson and Dolly Labels
DJ-producer Steffi's ascent through the international EDM ranks this year has been nothing short of meteoric. And it's thanks in no small part to Yours and Mine, her mega-charted debut long-player on Berlin's Ostgut Ton label. It's a sonic tour de force harking back to the vocal soul and euphoric jack of classic Chicago house.
But Steffi is no newcomer to the underground scene. She's been active for a good decade, first in her native Netherlands and later in Berlin, where she now presides as a beloved resident at international EDM mecca Panorama Bar.
Steffi will be making her Miami debut at the Electric Pickle this Saturday, courtesy of SAFE. And Crossfade caught up with the star to find out what she's all about.
Crossfade: How did you first get drawn to EDM and how did you transition to internationally-recognized DJ-producer?
Steffi: I heard a tape in my brother's car with some weird acid house tracks, this must have been 1988, and we played the same tape over and over. A couple of years later I started to party and met a group of people who were really involved in the underground scene in Holland. I got infected by them and started to DJ. I moved to Amsterdam in 1998 and got a residency in Mazzo. I became really active in the scene there by DJing a lot, starting up a label and organizing parties and events myself. When I moved to Berlin in 2007, I started to work with Ostgut Ton and that gave me more recognition worldwide. I was offered a residency in Panorama Bar and Ostgut Bookings wanted me on their roster, so that was a very easy decision for me to leave Holland. When I moved to Berlin, I quit my job as a freelance graphic designer to only focus on music and I finally had the time to finish music for it to be released.
2011 has been your big breakthrough year. What have been some of your personal highlights so far?
Well, for me it doesn't feel like that, I have to say. But I guess because of the album and the single "Yours" feat. Virginia it kinda took off to the next level. Highlights happened to me during the last 10 years, I guess, not especially this year. Every new experience or achievement is a highlight, but me finishing my album is definitely a personal highlight and the fact that people sing along to "Yours" and it has been played out and supported by so many DJs gives me a thrill for sure!
As a resident of Panorama Bar you are right at the epicenter of the international dance music scene. For those of us who haven't experienced the vibe there, what can you tell us about it?
I can't. It's something you have to experience yourself. I get this question a lot of times, but you have to come and see for yourself!
How did you first hook up with your frequent collaborating partner Virginia and what's your creative relationship like?
I met her trough a mutual friend. We started talking and found out we liked a lot of the same music. I invited her to come to the studio one day to make some music. When I started working on the album, I asked if she would be up for singing on some of my tracks. In the meantime, I had sent her my new tracks I made for Underground Quality and she spontaneously sang on one of them and sent it back to me. This turned out to be such a good match that we started to work with lots of loops and finally picked two tracks for the album. She is very easy to work with as she is producing music herself as well, so she gives me a lot of input when I send her a playback, for example. I always get a few ideas back and when we decide what works for a certain track we finish it together from there. She is not just singing but very much involved in finding the right arrangements, effects etc.
A lot of your work is distinctly lyrical. How do you typically approach the songwriting process and what inspires the lyrics?
I just love pop and dance music and vocals! I found somebody that is fantastic to work with, so why not bring the voice back into dance music?
Yours & Mine has a very classic sound which falls in with a general nostalgia across the international scene right now. Why do you think so many producers are currently looking to the past for inspiration?
To be honest, I don't find my album too old-school. I do use some typical drums that refer to this early period of time, but this is because I like those sounds and I love to work with drum computers and synths, preferably from the '80s, as they sound good. I am inspired by all the music I have listened to in my life, and because I've listened to dance music for at least 20 years, I guess there are a lot of different vibes from different times I picked up during my creative process. I guess there is a big group of people who prefer to work more old-school because they like the analog sound and the warmth of it. Also, today's music is very much based on consumption and not produced to last. Especially with digital-only labels, you can make a track in a day, throw it on Beatport and move to the next. Because of this, you always get a reaction. So I believe there are quite a few people who don't wanna roll like that.
What's the status of your labels Klakson and Dolly? Any forthcoming projects or releases?
I have one release a year for Klakson. It was always more like a special label, never very active. This year it's a 12-inch by me and Dexter. Dolly is more speedy and I will we releasing at least three more releases this year, number seven is on it's way. Basic Soul Unit with a killer Shed remix! Brooks Mosher will be back on Dolly with a remix for XDB and a new 12-inch, Mos (AKA Aroy Dee) and I have a few new people for next year!
In your experience, how does a woman get to where you've gotten in the male-dominated EDM game? Do you think women are on their way to making a bigger impact on the scene?
I have no clue. I never think about it. I just do what I do and only these questions remind me of the fact that there is a difference indeed. I guess this question is always so hard to answer because there are lots of answers and I guess this goes way, way back -- the relationship between male and female. I'll just pass, OK?
You're a renowned vinyl purist. Do you see yourself using other formats in the future?
I hope to do it as long as possible but some situations don't allow it unfortunately -- like traveling to the states, or people who don't care much about a fresh needle and the maintenance of a turntable.
What else do you have going on for the rest of the year?
Gigs, remixes, Third Side, Dolly, Klakson... shitloads!
Steffi with SAFE residents. Saturday, August 6. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami
Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.
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